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Sat, Feb 16th, 2019
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Futures Market News and Commentary

Natural Gas Market News and Commentary

Mar Nymex natural gas (NGH19) on Friday closed up by +0.052 (+2.02%). Nat-gas prices recovered from a 1-year nearest-futures low in overnight trade Friday and moved higher on forecasts for below-normal temperatures in the U.S., which should increase heating demand for nat-gas. NOAA projects colder-than-normal temperatures across most of the Western, Midwest and Northeast U.S. during Feb 19-23. Also, Radiant Solutions is forecasting below-normal temperatures from California to the Great Lakes through March 1 with a forecasted low in Chicago of 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius) on Feb 26, 11 degrees below normal. Nat-gas prices early Friday slipped to a 1-year low on signs of adequate supplies after weekly EIA nat-gas inventories on Thursday fell by only -78 bcf, less than expectations of -82 bcf and much less than the 5-year average of a decline of -160 bcf. Also, the March-April nat-gas futures spread remained negative by -3.3 cents on Friday. A negative spread suggests nat-gas supplies will be ample by the end of the heating season. U.S. nat-gas stockpiles as of Feb 8 stood at an 8-month low of 1.882 tcf, down -0.1% y/y and -15.0% below the 5-year average.Big Picture Natural Gas Market Factors: Bullish factors include (1) tight U.S. working gas inventories that as of Feb 8 stood at an 8-month low of 1.882 tcf, -15.0% below the 5-year average, (2) strong global natural gas demand due to firm global economic growth and the need to substitute for coal to reduce global CO2 emissions, and (3) significant U.S. LNG export potential as U.S. pipeline exports to Mexico rose to a 2-3/4 month high of 5.127 bcf and are up by +19% so far this year. Bearish factors include (1) near-record U.S. natural gas production and forecasts for production growth of +3% in 2019, (2) the March-April nat-gas futures spread moving into negative territory for the first time, which suggests nat-gas supplies will be abundant by the end of the heating season, and (3) China’s 10% retaliatory tariff on U.S. LNG, which substantially reduces the potential for U.S. LNG exports to China, although China as part of the Dec 1 US/Chinese tariff ceasefire agreed to start buying U.S. LNG.
Crude and Gasoline Market News and Commentary

Mar WTI crude oil (CLG19) on Friday closed up +$1.18 (+2.17%) per barrel and Apr Brent crude (CBJ19) closed up +$1.68 (+2.60%). Mar RBOB gasoline (RBH19) closed up +6.44 cents per gallon (+4.27%). The energy complex rallied for a fourth day Friday with Mar WTI crude, Apr Brent crude and Mar RBOB gasoline all at 3-month highs. The report of progress in trade talks between China and the U.S. is positive for the economic outlook and energy demand and pushed energy prices higher Friday on reports China reached consensus in principle on the main trade topics with the U.S. and that negotiations will continue next week. Also, an increase in the crack spread to a 1-3/4 month high today is positive for energy prices as it encourages refiners to purchase crude to refine into gasoline. In addition, signs of U.S. economic strength gave the energy complex a lift after the Feb Empire manufacturing index rose +4.9 to 8.8, stronger than expectations of +3.1 to 7.0. Crude prices maintained their gains Friday even after weekly data from Baker Hughes showed active U.S. oil rigs rose by 3 in the week ended Feb 15 to 857. Energy prices have seen support this week on the prospects for lower global crude production. Russian Energy Minister Novak said on Thursday that Russia is accelerating its crude production cuts and has curbed output by about 140,000 bpd since December to 11.3 million bpd. Also, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih on Tuesday said that Saudi Arabia will cut its crude production to 9.8 million bpd next month, the lowest in 11 months and well below the 10.3 million bpd output target agreed in the OPEC+ deal.Big Picture Crude Oil Market Factors: Bullish factors include (1) the -1.53 million bpd decline in OPEC Jan crude production to a 4-year low of 31.02 million bpd, (2) comments from Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih who said that Saudi Arabia will cut its crude production to 9.8 million bpd in March, the lowest in 11 months and well below the 10.3 million bpd output target agreed in the OPEC+ deal, (3) the action by the Trump administration to slap sanctions on Venezuela's national oil company PDVSA, which will block the company from exporting crude oil to the U.S. and restrict supplies, (4) the increase in OPEC Dec compliance with its crude production cuts to 163% from 112% in Nov, the most in 8 months, (5) the reinstatement of full U.S. sanctions on Iran as of Nov 5, although the U.S. gave waivers to 8 countries for up to 1.25 mln bpd of Iranian exports, and (6) the agreement by OPEC+ on Dec 7 to cut crude oil production by 1.2 million bpd for the first six months of 2019 (800,000 bpd for OPEC members), which should soak up much of the expected 2019 global oil surplus. Bearish factors include (1) the surge in U.S. oil production to a record high of 11.9 million bpd, (2) the surge in U.S. gasoline inventories to a record high 259.6 million bbl, (3) December's 1-1/2 year high in the dollar index although the dollar index has since fallen back to a 3-1/2 month low, and (4) the recent increase in crude supplies at Cushing, the delivery point for WTI futures, to a 1-year high.
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